By Marty Graham
SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - A 90-year-old woman whose California chinchilla farm was purchased and shut down by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals with money from a Hollywood mogul has sued the group, claiming they falsely portrayed her as an abuser of animals.
Lawyers for Lurlie Adams, who sold Valley View Farms to PETA in August, later saying she wasn't aware the group was involved in the transaction until the deal closed, filed the libel and defamation lawsuit in San Diego Superior Court on Monday.
The purchase was financed by Sam Simon, co-creator of animated television comedy The Simpsons. The Sam Simon foundation was also named in the lawsuit.
"In the twilight of her life, Mrs. Adams' reputation has been tarnished by this Hollywood fundraising machine," her attorney, Michael Curran, said. "We have researched the allegations by PETA and we know they are false - she is a very loving person who was running a very humane operation."
PETA president Ingrid Newkirk defended the group's actions in a written statement
"This complaint isn't good enough to line the floor of one of the metal cages in which Lurlie Adams housed chinchillas for decades - cages that stood next to a freezer containing pelts as well as a crude device used to painfully electrocute the animals and a chinchilla pelt–stretching drum, both of which PETA paid for and removed," she said.
"Mr. Simon is an upstanding man, and thanks to him, more than 350 of the chinchillas have already been adopted into wonderful homes, where they can finally be safe," Newkirk saidEarlier this year PETA arranged through an intermediary to pay Adams $50,750 for her breeding operation, which included about 425 chinchillas, after making an undercover video of her explaining the electrical device she used to euthanize animals.
Adams had been trying to sell the farm for months and said she thought the buyer was taking over the business.
The San Diego Humane Society took the chinchillas and with a $100,000 donation from the Sam Simon Foundation began finding homes for them.
According to the lawsuit, PETA sent out press releases saying Adams intended to slaughter the animals and use their pelts for clothing and blankets.
Her attorney said a secretly taped video of Adams and her assistant was spliced with 10-year-old footage from a different breeder and shown to supporters and the media to bolster PETA's claims.
(Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Eric Walsh)